There was a palpable feeling of excitement in the air at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
But what else would you expect after a team was, essentially, on the road for two months?
The Rangers opened the home portion of their 2013-14 schedule Monday night at the Garden, and in doing so became the last NHL team to play a home game this season. Due to the final stages of the Garden renovation, the Rangers spent the entirety of the preseason schedule and the first nine games of the regular season on the road.
Nine of the Rangers’ next 15 games are at home.
“Everybody — players and coaches — have been waiting for this day for a long time,” head coach Alain Vigneault said. “It’s finally here. We had a good meeting this morning, optional ice and guys are ready.”
Player readiness had been a point of contention during the nine-game road trip to start the season, as the Rangers were adjusting to Vigneault’s system. While it is not completely in place, the Rangers have appeared more comfortable with it recently than they were in the losses to San Jose and Anaheim.
“We haven’t played to our expectations,” Vigneault said. “We’re working on our game right now. Hopefully we’ll get it to where it needs to be [to] have success.”
Nash still waiting
A Rangers spokesman said there was “nothing new” when asked about Rick Nash’s status. Nash has missed the last seven games after being elbowed in the head by Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart in the first period of the 9-2 loss in San Jose on Oct. 8.
The organization has termed Nash’s condition as a “head injury,” although it is believed he suffered a concussion. If Nash does have a concussion, it would be his second in eight months. Nash missed four games between Feb.19-26 with what’s believed to be concussion symptoms following a check from behind by Bruins left wing Milan Lucic in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout win on Feb. 12 at the TD Garden.
Nash has three points in three games — all assists.
The NHL suspended Stuart three games for an illegal check to the head.
Rangers notes …
»One of the themes the Rangers have stressed under Vigneault is that it is a new day. Evidently it goes for press conferences as well as what happens on the ice.
During Vigneault’s pregame press conference following the early skate at the Garden, a cell phone rang, prompting the coach to quip, “If I was Torts, I’d be leaving by now.”
»Among the honored guests who walked the Blue Carpet before the game were Mets ace Matt Harvey, actor Tom Cavanaugh and Rangers legends Eddie Giacomin, Rod Gilbert, Adam Graves, Ron Greschner, Stephane Matteau, Pete Stemkowski, Brian Mullen and Nick Fotiu.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.